Back in August, we teased the beginning of a new product initiative to build on the successes of Wiki Modernization and Mobile Modernization. Today’s the day we get to talk with you about it.

This is going to be a long post, so buckle up!

First, some background info

You’ve heard us talk a lot about Wiki Modernization and Mobile Modernization over the last year and a half. Not only did those efforts improve the look and performance of the site through design updates and a reduction of advertisements, it also played a big part in increasing the number of people using your communities. Check out the historical level of wiki editors from 2014 through 2018:

FANDOM Edits and Unique Contributors 2014 to Present

As you can see, the number of editors went up and down, but there was a general downward trend — we were losing contributors, particularly in 2016, the same year we saw an increase of advertisements. Once we started improving page performance, particularly at the end of 2017, the number of editors started to increase in really significant ways, however.

What we haven't done well in the past is user retention. It's one thing to increase the number of people contributing to or reading the site, but if they're only doing so one time and then never coming back, that doesn’t help us build healthy communities.

The big question now is: how can we keep edits going up, while also encouraging those contributors and readers to keep coming back?

With that in mind, we’re turning towards a new initiative with a clear goal: attract more regular contributors for your communities and build the right community-driven experiences to increase user retention.

Past attempts at user retention

We’ve made some attempts at increasing user retention with features like Chat, Message Wall, Article Comments, Blogs, Achievements, and more. None of them really moved the needle, which is a shame because retention is how communities grow. Retention on wikis has been historically flat, with only power users like yourselves being the people regularly using wikis.

A big reason for a lack of retention is that unless you're interested in wiki editing, which not everyone is, there's not a great reason to stick around. Discussions provides that on some level, but it often feels tucked away and disconnected from the wiki editing community. And, a large majority of our traffic comes from people landing here from Google while looking for quick information. They bounce after they find it.

The more reliant community traffic is on Google, the more we’re all impacted by changes Google makes to how visible a web page is in search results. No set of features has yet made a meaningful difference in changing that.

Except one.

What the unified FANDOM app teaches us

The launch of the unified FANDOM app offered the first real success in increasing our user retention rate. There are some key reasons for that:

  • It has wiki, editorial, and Discussions content more closely aligned so it doesn’t feel like three separate sites
  • Discussions allows users to contribute content to the app for the first time
  • You can personalize your experience by subscribing to topic feeds that interest you
  • Once subscribed to feeds, you can receive notifications that keep you coming back

Here’s the ratio of daily users to monthly users that we’ve seen with the FANDOM app:

FANDOM Daily Users and Monthly Users Ratio 2014 to Present

As you can see in the data, un-unified wiki and editorial retention is flat. Only the unified app with all content types in one place has shown dynamic growth.

Diving deeper into that data shows us retention broken out into different categories like Day 1 retention, Day 7 retention, and Day 30 retention—which is to say, who is still coming back that many days after a given use of the app? If we look at Day 7 retention, which is a key metric, we already see a 15% increase from the previous version of the app. That’s still a comparatively small group compared to desktop and mobile web, but it’s a start and points the way forward for the rest of the site.

That leads us to our next product development initiative.

Introducing Unification

Our next development initiative is called Unification. We teased this a bit earlier in the year when we talked about the Fan’s Journey on FANDOM and how we can become a complete fan destination. As part of that we mentioned the "FANDOM Mystery House," which was our playful way of describing how FANDOM has so many different and disconnected entry points and contribution methods.

The FANDOM app showed us that our hypothesis about a unified and personalized experience leading to more engagement is true. This Thursday, October 4th, we’re going to introduce you to our first major Unification feature. We don’t want to spoil the surprise just yet, but what we can do is show you the guiding principles behind Unification:

  • Unification is community-driven
  • Unification will still showcase each community's individuality, rather than creating one homogenous theme
  • Unification will offer a way to find all content types in one place
  • Unification gives you the opportunity to build an even bigger community of fans centered around each community’s topic
  • Unification means you can personalize your own experience, subscribe to topics, and be notified when there’s new and exciting content on a given community
  • Unification will address that “FANDOM Mystery House” and make the site more consistent across desktop, mobile web, and the FANDOM app

Not all of these points will be ready in the initial test launch of the new feature, but they are the plan through the rest of the year and beginning of 2019, and reflect the broad set of goals for Unification. When we dive deeper into the specifics of the feature on Thursday, we’ll also include a product roadmap so you know what’s yet to come and when we’re aiming to release different parts of the feature.

Until then, if you have any questions about Unification please let us know!

UPDATE 10/3/18: Quick update! We decided to hold off on releasing the feature that we teased earlier in this blog. We talked to Community Council about it and they gave us a lot of great feedback, so because of that we're not quite ready to show it to everybody yet. We'll let you know once we know more!


Brandon Rhea Fandom Staff

Brandon Rhea is VP of TV, Movies, and Anime at Fandom. He's a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and Marvel. He's a Gryffindor whose Patronus is a cat.
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